French Open Report Card
The second Grand Slam of the season has been and gone, and was not without its shocks and history-making moments. Let’s have a look at who were the big winners and losers.
Rafael Nadal D+
The talk before the French Open was all about the possibility of a calendar Slam for Rafa. He had conquered the hard courts of Melbourneand had made a winning return to the red clay. Roland Garros is a home from home for the Majorcan; and despite a fairly gruelling schedule, the World No. 1 looked set to add a fifth straight title to his growing resume. However, it was not to be. He struggled for rhythm during his first few matches, and eventually met an opponent in good enough form to punish his sloppiness. News of a knee injury has suggested that he was not at full fitness after all, and that it certainly had a negative effect on his form. To lose his unbeaten record at Roland Garros will hurt, but maybe having to relinquish his Wimbledon crown through injury will cause even more pain.
He probably would have wanted to be the man to remove the aura of invincibility from Nadal, but will ultimately settle for finally becoming French Open champion. He completes his career Slam, and with it silences the doubters who had dared to suggest that he was in a state of decline. A 20th successive Grand Slam semi-final and a record-equalling 14th title all mean that talk now is whether he is the greatest of all time. The fact that for the first time in his career he had to come through two five-set matches; and because he did not have to face anyone ranked higher than No. 5 keep him from an A+.
Andy Murray C-
He will say that the quarter finals represent progress; and it is true that his clay-court game has improved immeasurably in the last twelve months; but this was a missed opportunity. With Nadal gone, the top half of the draw opened up, but Murray was outgunned by Gonzalez and his awesome forehand power. The world number three should not be so comprehensively bullied.
Novak Djokovic D-
That Australian Open win is looking ever more distant. He admits that perhaps he played too much in the lead up to Roland Garros; but that is no real excuse. Stamina has always been an issue for the Serb, and it looks increasingly like he just is not durable enough to compete consistently at the top level.
Juan-Martin Del Potro A
There can be no complaints about the performance of the young Argentinean except for maybe his choice of outfits. He reached his first slam semi-final, and took Federer to five sets. On the way he gave an indication of what a handful he could be on faster surfaces.
Never harboured great ambitions in Paris, but will not be too disappointed with his showing. The grass season is what he looks forward to most.
Fernando Verdasco C+
Equalled best showing in Paris, but probably wanted to build on his great run in Melbourne.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga C-
Despite three players in the Top 10 going into the tournament, the French contingent failed to shine. Tsonga has been a disappointment since his stunning run to the Australian Open Final in 2008.
Fernando Gonzalez A-
Blasted Murray off the court with his devastating power; but showed in the semi that if the weapons are not firing on all cylinders, that he can be broken down. Still, he showed that his 2007 Melbourne run was no fluke and that he deserves to be seen as a contender. Though, seven matches over two weeks is a big test of his, and that forehand’s consistency.
Nikolay Davdenko B-
Seemed to be in great form and making the most of the shocks going on in his half of the draw; but faltered dramatically when demolished by Soderling. A quarter-final place is above his seeding, but he may feel it was a missed chance.
Robin Soderling A+
The man who ended Nadal’s unbeaten run. Did anybody see that coming? Not only did the Swede do what no one had ever done at Roland Garros by defeating Rafa; but he then destroyed Davydenko and held his nerve under pressure to defeat Fernando Gonzalez. That he lost to Federer in the final is almost immaterial as his expectations had been well and truly exceeded by then. A fine performance, but is it an isolated occurrence or a springboard to further achievement?
Gael Monfils C-
May be nursing a slight injury, but he was blown away by Federer in a match that the Swiss probably anticipated would be tougher. There is a lot of talk about this young man, and as yet not many results in grand slam tournaments to back it up.
Tommy Haas B+
Two sets up, and a break point up against Federer; Haas looked like he would rival Soderling as a headline maker. Alas, it was not to be and the maestro pulled through. However, Haas’ efforts have seen him move up 22 places in the rankings and remind everyone why he can be such a dangerous opponent.
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